Updated May 2020
What to put in an emergency kit
When the power goes out or the weather is dangerous, knowing there’s an accessible, well-stocked emergency response kit at the ready helps you and your loved ones feel more secure.
Experts at Ready.gov and the American Red Cross suggest keeping at least 3 days’ worth of items on hand, which is sufficient for a short-term situation. If you live in a remote area or a place that’s frequently impacted by severe weather, store as much as a two-week supply.
Make a list of medications that must be taken daily, including prescriptions and over-the-counter products. Then ask a healthcare provider for an extended quantity. Keep in mind that some medications have a limited shelf-life. Consider an automatic pill dispenser if you are concerned about inappropriate dosing. It’s also important to arrange for emergency provisions with your medical supply vendor.
If you or a family member relies on medical devices and equipment that require electrical power, consider purchasing a generator to ensure uninterrupted service. You should also let your local fire department and electrical utility know if you or your loved one relies on life-saving equipment. Learn how to replace or recharge personal emergency response system batteries.
Food and water:
Store a variety of non-perishable foods that don’t require cooking, and check expiration dates to make sure all items are safe for consumption. Stock at least a two-week supply of water for emergency use. The Red Cross suggests one gallon of water per person per day. You may also want to buy purification tablets as well.
Make sure to have a lighter and safety matches on hand. Try to avoid traditional candles or any other flammable light sources to reduce risk of fire. Solar and battery-operated lanterns and flashlights are the safest sources of lighting.
Keeping up with changing conditions and advisories is crucial. Keep phones charged and have extra batteries for cordless landlines. Buy a few battery sticks and keep them charged to provide additional power to mobile devices. Since cell service can be disrupted, it’s also smart to purchase a solar or hand-crank radio to ensure access to information.
Hygiene and first aid:
Store a variety of personal hygiene items such as soap, dry shampoo, toothpaste, wipes and toilet paper. A stocked first-aid kit is a necessity in any home – check the expiration dates on items and replace as necessary.
If the power goes out, banks and ATMs may not be open. Consider keeping enough cash on hand to gas up the car, buy a few days of groceries and cover a couple of nights at a hotel.
Make sure you have winter gear ready — coats, hats, gloves, socks, long underwear, boots, and blankets. Also have a store of lightweight clothing and hand fans for warm-weather emergencies. Sunscreen is useful during any season.
Access to vital records is crucial in an emergency and its aftermath. Gather documents like homeowners, health and life insurance policies; bank and other financial statements; and passports and other government-issued IDs. Any important papers should be kept in a waterproof and fireproof container.
Sometimes emergencies happen when you’re away from home. Pack a limited emergency preparedness kit for your car that includes a spare tire, jack, jumper cables, device chargers, water, blankets, snack food and flares.
Set aside a two-week supply of pet food and medicines. The Humane Society recommends a gallon of water per day per pet. You may need more to rinse food bowls. Don’t forget to stock up on extra cat litter or pet bedding for hamsters and other small animals. Write down feeding schedules, behavioral or physical issues and the name and contact information for your vet in case your pet needs to be boarded.
Create an emergency plan
As a family, develop a plan in place that lists escape routes, important phone numbers, and what to do in certain situations. Keep a copy of the plan in a secure place that is easy to remember. Take time to discuss what you would do in specific situations to help identify where changes and improvements are needed. Check out Ready.gov for advice on pulling together your preparedness and response plan. See advice for creating a medical emergency response plan here.
While none of us likes to think about emergency situations, the best way to handle them successfully is to plan ahead. These tips will help you and your loved ones be better prepared for unexpected events.